DES MOINES — Although oil has begun flowing through the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, Iowa activists aren't giving up their battle against the $3.8 billion project.
The 30-inch diameter pipeline started commercially shipping oil Thursday and has a capacity to transport about 520,000 barrels of oil daily.
But appeals are still pending with the Iowa Supreme Court that opponents see as offering glimmers of hope that the pipeline can still be shut down.
"If any of these court rulings go our way, things could change," said Ed Fallon of Des Moines, a former state legislator who heads Bold Iowa, an activist group that opposes the pipeline because of concerns involving the environment, property rights and other issues.
The Dakota Access Pipeline route extends 1,168 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks oil-production areas to a distribution hub at Patoka, Ill.
The Iowa section runs diagonally for 346 miles through 18 counties from far northwest Iowa to the state's southeast corner.
The Davis-Brown Law firm of Des Moines is representing Iowa landowners who have appealed to the state Supreme Court over the use of eminent domain to build the pipeline through their farms.
In addition, the Sierra Club of Iowa is appealing to the state's high court over the Iowa Utilities Board's decision to grant a pipeline permit to Dakota Access.
Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell ruled against the plaintiffs in a consolidated case decided in February.
But the Iowa Supreme Court has denied a motion by Dakota Access to dismiss the case. The justices are expected to rule later this year or early in 2018.
Jonas Magram of Fairfield, a leader of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition that includes 30 Iowa groups opposed to the pipeline, said Tuesday his organization is "absolutely not" conceding defeat.
"We know that it is a long shot, but we feel that this pipeline was built in opposition to what the law requires and that oil should be interrupted and that the pipeline should be removed," Magram said.
Outside of Iowa, four Sioux tribes in the Dakotas are still fighting in federal court in Washington, D.C., hoping to persuade a judge to shut down the pipeline.
Meanwhile, Fallon said other anti-pipeline activities are continuing. He spent Tuesday at the Boone County Courthouse, where he and others were supporting a pipeline foe on trial after being arrested in a protest last August.
On June 17, the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition is sponsoring a flotilla that will head down the Des Moines River near Pilot Mound with the theme of protecting Iowa's rivers. Other events are also being planned.
The Dakota Access Pipeline project has been supported by the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, which is a partnership of entities from agriculture, business and labor sectors. The coalition says it supports the economic development and energy security benefits associated with infrastructure projects in the Midwest.
Chad Carter, business agent and vice president of Operating Engineers Local 234 in Des Moines, which has supplied workers for the pipeline project, said Tuesday the union workers have done a great job and he isn't concerned about activists' continued opposition.
“They are going to do what they can, but I think it’s a lost cause. There are probably other things to be worrying about," Carter said.
Meanwhile, Texas-based Dakota Access continues to file weekly construction reports with the Iowa Utilities Board that indicate restoration of farmland and cleanup work is still ongoing in four Iowa counties in north-central and northwest Iowa.
There have been no leaks reported on the Iowa section of the pipeline, said Alex Murphy, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The pipeline crosses under the Missouri, Des Moines and Mississippi rivers, as well as other waterways.